From the Desk's Mystery Series.
©11 The Media Desk
Somebody said there were pyramids all over the world. I knew about the ones in Egypt and Mexico, but your other article said there were some in China as well. Are there really pyramids all over the world?
(a forum user)
[Clarification THEN answer: We are NOT talking about known natural geological formations such as various mesas in the American Southwest and Walsh's Pyramid in Australia see below for examples. We are only discussing structures that are either constructed by man, or are perhaps partially natural forms that were extensively reworked by humans. ALSO, we are NOT talking about those of known modern origin, such as a certain arena in Memphis, TN, USA. To be on our list, the pyramid has to be of unknown or 'relatively' ancient origin. -thank you]Short answer first: Yes, structures of that shape are known to exist very nearly worldwide. To Date, pyramids of more or less ancient origin, say built during Roman times or so, have been found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia... more on supposed structures in the "Land Down Under" later.
And now the Long Answer:
First out of the box, we have to define what is and is not a pyramid. Geometrically speaking, a pyramid is a solid shape, having at least three triangular sides (if it has four triangular sides it is a Tetrahedron, one of the Platonic Solids), and the sides must come to a point at the top. A four sided pyramid is the usual form, but ones with five sides and more are part of the breed. A cone is a circular version of the same general idea.
The shape is also recognized in Chemistry where one atom is bonded to others in the compound in such a way that when modeled the molecule resembles a pyramid. A simple example is Ammonia.
But once you leave the nice and tidy world of mathematics, things are not, well, nice and tidy.
The near-prehistoric ancestor of what we think of as a pyramid were likely the Tells of the Old World such as al-`Ubaid in Iraq and related sites in the Middle East. Some of which approached the size and shape of their more famous, and better preserved, descendents made of stone instead of mud brick or even compacted earth.
Should the ancient Mesopotamian Ziggurats be considered 'pyramids'? They were huge, had sloped sides, but, as far as we know, they did not come to anything resembling a point. But the Mayan pyramids with their giant steps and flat summits crowned with temples and monuments are called 'pyramids' and nobody who disputes that title for them is taken seriously.
How about mounds such as the "Indian Mounds" in appropriately named Mound City, Ohio? Or even those in Ireland like the famous Newgrange tomb? Some of those were tall and steep, until erosion and soil compaction and creep took its toll in the ages since they were built. Several of them are very pyramid-like, with four sloping sides of more or less equal length, and you can tell by looking at them that if they'd kept going they would have had themselves a true pyramid. But the jury has yet to meet to decide whether or not they should join the Pyramid Club of North America. Newgrange and the Great Mound at Knowth in Ireland aren't exactly square or rectangular, but more round-ish so as if they had kept building they would have had a cone shaped monument, but as we have seen, a cone is a pyramid without the corners. So....
Does function play a role? Should a true pyramid be a tomb? Or do the temple structures such as Gangaikonda Cholapuram in India qualify on shape alone even though its sides are seriously ornate instead of smooth and it is even today in use as a temple to the Hindu goddess Saraswati.
How about construction technique? To be a 'true pyramid' does it have to be made of enormous blocks of stone that wide-eyed tour guides say "couldn't be moved with today's construction equipment" (which is simply a white lie they tell tourists for fun and profit, for an example of 'yes they can' see the Great Zimbabwe article linked below.) such as those on the Giza Plateau? Many of the structures in our list today, if not in fact most of them, are made of something besides giant blocks of stone. In fact, many of the ones outside of Central America and Egypt are made of quite mundane materials ranging from simple piles of dirt or mud brick up to stones that are movable by hand, although they are in some cases, Cahokia for instance, quite sizable piles of dirt and stone. Remember, not every Egyptian pyramid is made of massive stones, for an example you need go no further than Saqqara where the Step Pyramid of Djoser was built of stones that are considerably smaller than those at Giza.
Is size a factor? The pyramid Tomb of Cestius in Rome is a couple of thousand years old, has smooth sides, was originally a grave vault even though it was looted and desecrated not long after it was built. But it is less than thirty meters high. Which makes it among the smallest of its kind that still survive intact outside of ancient necropolises.
Some wax poetic about "True" pyramids such as the ones at Dahsuhur that were built by the Pharaoh Sneferu about 2500 BC. However, there are a lot of other structures older, such as the Ziggurats, and many that are somewhat newer, almost everything else, that are close enough to the classic shape for the rest of us to consider them pyramids as well.
How did the ancients come upon this shape? Does it hold special properties, or was it drawn up by the gods as their approved design? Did it evolve separately throughout the world or was it taken from place to place by wandering pyramid construction teams?
Well, architecturally speaking, the basic shape of a pyramid with sides that slope inward in the range of forty-five to about fifty-some degrees are very stable once completed. As the builders of Sneferu's first couple of outings can attest, something steeper can become somewhat unwieldy and difficult to build on that scale. And Gravity has always worked weekends and holidays even when your construction team has off.
So it could be that various builders throughout the ancient world came naturally by the general plan as an answer to the central problem of constructing massive buildings of suitable size and height for the various king's or priest's egos with minimal material and do it where it wouldn't fall in on itself with the first minor earthquake or monsoon.
You don't have to go very far across the web or even a bookstore before you run into those that claim everything from magic to mysticism for pyramids. There have been claims that the design could sharpen dull razor blades placed inside, or keep fruit from rotting. Some have said that it focuses the natural energy fields of the planet, drawing it in and aiming it up, or down, as the case may be.
That there was a astronomical alignment for some of the ancient buildings is simply a known fact. In some cases, engravings are preserved on them, particularly some of the Mayan buildings that tell us that that is exactly what they were doing. However with others, such as those at Giza, there are no inscriptions or wall paintings claiming anything of the kind. In fact, the lack of decoration in the Great Pyramids outside Cairo is noteworthy. They simply don't tell us anything about themselves, and as far as investigators can tell, they never did.
It is known, or at least reasonably suspected, that the ancients used dowsing techniques to locate various natural features such as subterranean water for digging wells and so on. There are records of split reed dowsing from China as well as pendulums and other methods from Egypt. Whether or not these techniques were crucial for the positioning of the pyramids and other monuments is unknown, but it is a reasonable assumption to make. So it is very possible that some of these sites are located at the confluence of ley or water lines or other earthy phenomenon.
But there are a great number of ancient monuments that are where they are because that's where they are. Maybe when they were built there was something special about the location, but today, such as with the ancient structures around Ur, even the sea has moved and the great ruins are miles and miles from anywhere except other ruins.
[Sidenote to explain odd observation:Over the years the so called 'power of the pyramid' has been investigated by individuals who looked at the concept from degrees of scientific skepticism ranging from the serious to the crackpot, and so far, the only thing that has been proven is that if people want to believe that the geometric shape, whether made of limestone or cardboard can have whatever virtue is being touted, they will. As to objective proof that the structure does anything other than occupying space over time, well, if you find some let us all know.
What is known today as the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf has receded some hundred kilometers from its ancient shoreline when Babylon was the center of the world.
Whether the difference is from surface uplift by geologic forces, the lowering of mean sea level, the silting up of the basin, or the intervention by the ancient gods of the place, or a combination of all four is still being debated. However, the fact remains that the ocean isn't where it was back then, and there is no guarantee that it will remain where it is, "global warming" or no. Sea Level changes, and it looks like there is nothing Marduk or even Mr. Gore can do about it.
So it is entirely reasonable to believe that a structure such as the city off the Western coast of India or the ruins in the ocean south of Japan (which may contain a pyramid) were built when sea level was Lower than it is now and the land they are sitting on was coastal instead of underwater.
You can see pyramids represented in insignia ranging from the Great Seal of the US to the logos of various groups and organization. To some, the image represents stability, or longevity, the mystic East, antiquity, pagan religions, or just about anything else they say it represents. As at one time, all of the above and more were under the banner of the pyramid.
One doesn't even have to go as far as Masonic groups to find pyramids in the world at large, there is even a motorcycle club in Stratford, UK, just outside of London with one in their name and on their logo. And of course there is the usual assortment of banks and even churches with pyramids in their facades and, at least in once case, their headquarters building itself. All for the reasons we've already outlined.
The short answer to this section is that a pyramid is a geometric shape. An ancient architectural plan that is still useful in modern times. A symbol of ancient royal power and excess. And perhaps a worldwide phenomenon with more than its fair share of entries on the UN's world heritage list.
But that's it.
If there ever were great mystic and untold forces associated with the shape, they have long since dissipated and nothing special will happen if you fold your dinner napkins into the shape and set them over your dinner plate, your meal won't taste any better. But if you want to, the link to the folding instructions is below. No, really, it is.
Africa (besides Egypt)
Perhaps the best example of non-Egyptian pyramids elsewhere on the continent is in the Sudan in the classic land of Nubia around the old city of MeroŽ where around 200 of the structures were built during their golden age about 300 BC - 300 AD although some may have been built several hundred years earlier.
And like we'll discuss about South America when we get there, there may well be lost cities and pyramids in places like the Congo River basin and in the backwaters of Nigeria where the ancient Benue and Nok lived, or buried under the sands of the Sahara that are just waiting to be discovered.
While there are no known flat sided pyramids in the ancient ruin of Great Zimbabwe, there are several stone structures resembling a conical version of the idea that are worth a look. And the Desk took a long look in its article from a couple of years ago. (link below)
That the pyramids in China are known to be ancient in origin is simply a matter of record. Some of the earliest dynasties commented on them in their official records as having already been there for ages as the tombs for even earlier kings and other important people. Many in the Xi'an area are known to have been built for rulers from the Zhou dynasty beginning around 1100 BC, which makes them about a thousand years younger than their Egyptian cousins. Other examples are found elsewhere in China.
Given that several of the major cities of the Indus Valley civilization were blasted as flat as the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah (which may have been the basis for the tale from Genesis), little remains to judge whether or not they built anything resembling a pyramid in their large and vibrant cities. However, elsewhere on the sub-continent various buildings that could be said to be the "Eastern" style of pyramid do exist and some ancient or near-ancient edifices are still in use as temples. A link below will take you to a good website to learn more about many of them.
Cambodia's Angkor World Heritage Site has several buildings that qualify as an ancient pyramid, and, of course, we are talking about the "Eastern" style. One of the best examples is the temple Prasat Thom northeast of the main compound at Angkor Wat.
Other structures more resembling Angkor than Egypt exist elsewhere in the region even out onto islands like Java and other locations in Indonesia.
One of the very few remaining examples of the pyramid-ish form known as the Ziggurat is in the ancient land of Elam in what is now Iran. The Choga Zambil complex was begun around 1250 BC by the king Untash-Napirisha. Other ruins of similar structures are found throughout the Middle East including in Iraq where the great building of Ur has been rebuilt.
Perhaps the best known pyramid in all of Europe is the Pyramid of Cestius in Rome. It was built as a tomb around 15 BC. The record of its construction and for whom it was built is known. It is a tomb for a Roman magistrate by the name of Cestius, as is inscribed on the face of the structure. End of mystery.
Also, tombs in the same general shape and about that size were constructed throughout the Roman empire, including France and Spain where several still exist.
There are other features in Italy that are said to be pyramids, and some do show sign of having been worked by man to some degree. Such as the hills northeast of Milan near the town of Montevecchia. During a 2003 excavation of the series of three hills showed hand hewn stones. The bulk of the structures may indeed be a natural part of the terrain, but at some time in the past, each was reshaped into what it looks like now. But thereby comes the rub. The largest 'looks' like a step pyramid that is more or less 150 meters high (which is slightly taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza at 140 meters +/-), however, it also looks like the endless rows of terraced farmland that covers the area. However, it bears mentioning here and now that on top of at least some of the hills that there are ruins including alters and menhirs (standing stones) that may or may not be of the same age and construct of the hills.
Similar features have been noted near other Italian cities including Florence not far from where neolithic settlements have been found.
If you say "European Pyramid" it won't be long before somebody mentions what some call the Pyramid of the Sun in Bosnia. Visocica Hill, near Visoko, appears to be a natural formation that was reworked somewhere in the murky past. And according to mainstream geologists and archeologists, it is nothing more than that. That is, until you start digging, which is something many of the skeptics have not done.
At least in the case of Visocica, the hill may be almost totally artificial and constructed for purposes yet undiscovered by people long forgotten. The structure itself is honeycombed with filled in passages, niches, and recessed areas under impermeable layers of clay, some of which were not discovered until 2010. Ongoing excavations have raised more questions from around the hill as well as inside it. Who built it, and why, has yet to be realized. But there was a known ancient culture called the Daorsi who lived in the area prior to Roman occupation and who did leave megalithic ruins in various areas. Did they, or even their ancestors, build the pyramids in the Valley northwest of Sarajevo? It may take a long time to find out.
Other nearby hills, or pyramids, have yet to be extensively excavated regardless of their rather optimistic names as the "pyramid of the moon" and so on.
Piramida Hill and its neighbors bear a striking resemblance to the ones in Bosnia. And as with those to the south in Bosnia, ancient artifacts have been found around it, but haven't given any clues as to whether the hills are all or partially artifical in origin and who spent the considerable effort to either build it from scratch or to remodel an existing natural land form. The jury is still out on this one as to whether it belongs here or down further in our list of "Natural" formations.
As with some structures elsewhere, such as the islands we'll get to in a minute, the pyramids in Greece aren't built like what you usually think of when you hear the word. Most are tombs or monuments, or rather, they were, as over the centuries, many have been used as a quarry for stone to build homes and other monuments, or simply fallen victim to souvenir and treasure hunters and amateur archeologists.
That there are pyramids on at least two of the islands in the group is a fact dependent on what you consider a 'pyramid'. The primary structures outside of Guimar on Tenerife may have started out life as a step pyramid, but most certainly aren't one now. They are, however, large dry stone monolithic structures of impressive size, and most are composed of several steps. The ancient peoples of the island, the Gaunches, may or may not have constructed the buildings, or, according to a somewhat fanciful theory by mainstream scientists, early European settlers built them with the stones they cleared from farm fields. While the nineteenth century explanation is plausible, there are also some aspects of the pyramids that may indicate that the settlers built their walls over already existing stoneworks. Which is especially true on the island of La Palma where the structure looks more like it may have been a 'pyramid' pyramid, or at least it was before the eruption of the Quemada volcano five hundred years ago partially buried it with lava. And, of course, as we discussed before, there are true believers, Thor Heyerdahl (1914 - 2002) being among them, who see links to the Mayan temples, and Egypt, the stars, various solar events, and so on, in the stoneworks on the islands.
The building at El Mirador is one of the largest examples of early Mayan pyramid construction. The city having been begun sometime before 600 BC. Excavation and research are ongoing at the site.
Most of the pyramids of North America that ARE NOT Mayan in origin are found in the Midwest and are called "Mounds". The most well known of which is Cahokia in Illinois not far from Saint Louis, Missouri. The site was occupied by a culture known to Archeologists as Mississippian from about 1000 BC to 900 AD (or so) with the mound being constructed somewhere in the middle of that period.
Others were built throughout the region from Ohio into Missouri and Iowa, and some may have looked very much like full-fledged pyramids when complete and in use such as the Etowah mounds in Georgia. Others have been found downstream along the Mississippi river leading one to suspect that the Father of Waters has always been important to the people living along it.
There are also some interesting structures in the Canyons of the Ancients in southwestern Colorado near the present day city of Cortez.
There are many rumors of ancient cities that include mounds or even full pyramids deep in the jungles and mountainous areas of South America. Some may be real, and others may be wishful thinking or flights of fancy based on satellite images of natural formations. There have been and are expeditions into the interior that have had some interesting results and future trips are being planned. However, some do exist, and a few are spectacular, and most of them have "made by the Inca" stamped on them, such as-
The Inca building of Huaca Pucllana in Lima is another of the pyramid-ish buildings of the world. It may never have looked like those in Egypt or Mexico, but that it was based on the same basic idea is undeniable, even if the original architect arrived at the plans independently instead of having been cross contaminated by ancient sea-farers or even aliens. Few of the hundreds of known structures from that era survive because many were built of mud brick and have simply weathered away, or as was the case for others elsewhere, were used as quarries.
Some Of The Non-Man Made Pyramids Of The World
Gympie Pyramid, Gympie, Australia. Reliable research has all but conclusively proven that this 'stepped pyramid' was built at the end of the nineteenth century as part of a terraced vineyard. Other origins of the structure are totally unfounded speculation. All artifacts supposedly recovered near the edifice in southern Queensland indicating ancient Egyptian or Chinese origin appear to be hoaxed.
Walshs Pyramid in northern Queensland near Cairns is a thousand meter (3,000 feet) tall extinct volcano that is part of the Lamb Range of coastal mountains. From certain angles it appears to be a smooth but overgrown with vegetation, pyramid. But only from certain angles. It is known to be a natural, although spectacular, geological formation.
Other reported pyramids on the island vanish into thin air when under scrutiny, a rather remarkable act for a stone structure.
Off the Coast
Ball's Pyramid is what's left of an extinct volcano in the Pacific between Australia and New Zealand in the Tasman sea. The basalt rock in the ocean is a 560 meters tall and 1,100 meters long and only 300 wide (1,800 ft tall, 3,600 long, 980 wide) volcanic stack. The spectacular remnants of an ancient volcano has been climbed several times over the years in spite of Internet rumors to the contrary, the lack of any level area for a base camp does make the ascent very difficult however.
Of all the images the Desk went through during the research for this article, this thing was the coolest. Check it out first, links below. The video has music instead of commentary.
The Ampere Seamount off the West Coast shall stand here, pun intended, as all the natural underwater formations that look more or less like a pyramid. Most of which have never been above water. And which you don't have to look very far to find mentions of Atlantis in relation to. Suffice it to say, 99.999% of these things have NOTHING to do with the lost continent and its civilization, that final .001% is still being looked into, including an interesting sea floor formation off the Scottish coast as well as some things in the water near Cuba. Could they be Atlantis? We'll get back to you on that.
Pyramid Peak, Victoria Land, is a 2,500 meter mountain in the Destination Nunataks coastal range due south of New Zealand. It appears to be solid rock, and is similar in size and shape to nearby mountains like Sphinx Peak, some of which have yet to be named.
Here another Pyramid Peak shall be the example of all of its brethren elsewhere in the world. As we have already seen there are literally tons of mountains and hills with the word 'pyramid' in their name. Colorado's example is a rugged nearly 4,275 meter (14,00 foot) peak in the Elk Mountains not far from the city of Aspen.
Now, having said that about Colorado... It would be a safe bet to state that very nearly every mountain range, set of foothills, or even glacial till throughout the world has a 'summit' with the word of the day in the name, such as the Vincent Pyramid Peak in the Alps and Chonku Chuli in the Himalayas (just guess what the name means in English).
And with that we come to-
Links and resources.
(All outside sites will open in a new window.)
BUT- Go See This First!
Ball's Pyramid photos at www.odditycentral.com
A flyby posted on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsPAHY75UPI
And now, the rest of the links:
The www.napkinfoldingguide.com as mentioned in the article: http://www.napkinfoldingguide.com/01-pyramid/
A good collection of some of the ones we've talked about and others:
Step Pyramids of the World http://www.touropia.com/step-pyramids-of-the-world
If something you want to check out from the article isn't listed below, drop the name in a search engine and have fun!
Another page about them: www.lauralee.com
Cambodia - Angkor's UNESCO.ORG page
Indian Temples at www.culturalindia.net
Includes video of the latest discovery with ground penetrating radar. http://www.piramidasunca.ba/eng/home-en.html
The Maya www.mostlymaya.com Begining with El Mirador.
An example of "proto-pyramids" at www.mesopotamia.co.uk
One of the other natural pyramids:
The Ampere Seamount at www.ifm-geomar.de
The Desk's Great Zimbabwe article with the discussion of other ancient megalithic sites and a review of heavy lift construction techniques.
The Desk's Non-Fiction and Mystery Series Index http://themediadesk.com/nonfiction.htm
[NOTE: All listed archeological sites, tourist traps, university groups, countries, lost continents, and whateveritis's, are owned by other entities. No disparagement or disrespect is intended. No endorsement of the Desk of them, or by them of the Desk is to be inferred.
The Desk is solely responsible for the analysis and conclusions hereby presented. If the reader has any issues with anything in the article they may contact the Desk through the usual channels.
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